Art Against Drones


In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.

To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.


The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites.

The project is a collaboration of artists who made use of the French artist JR’s ‘Inside Out’ movement. Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights helped launch the effort which has been released with the hashtag #NotABugSplat

Children gather around the installation

Children gather around the installation

Ground view of the gigantic poster of the child victim.

Ground view of the gigantic poster of the child victim.

The child featured in the poster is nameless, but according to FFR, lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack. 

The group of artists traveled inside KPK province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms. It is their hope that this will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives.


The fact remains that even the warmongering Brookings Institution has concluded that there are 10 civilians killed to every 1 "militant" in Pakistan alone. Obama denies this, and a range of other documented evidence, when he states that only "precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates" are undertaken. 

A new form of activist art is taking shape to ensure that human beings should be recognized as more than just "collateral damage" in a war that the vast majority of global citizens have no interest in continuing. This art form aims to literally get right in the face of those who pull the trigger.

As pointed out by The Verge, the people killed by drones are viewed within military culture as nothing more than insects:

In military parlance, a "bugsplat" is the targeted kill in a drone strike, though that term and the practice have come under fire for dehumanizing the surrounding, often unseen deaths involved.

In lieu of a sudden change of heart from unrepentant murders and murder wannabes who sign up for employment in the growing field of terror as a career opportunity, it is up to the rest of us to humanize what is being done in our names.

Pakistan is of course a fitting site for protest, as many areas have been decimated in the most impersonal way possible. A group of village artists has developed a  new strategy to increase visibility for past and future victims.

(T)he artist collective worked with the Foundation for Fundamental Rights to install a massive portrait of a victim that would otherwise be invisible to drone operators and satellites. "The piece was laid out in KPK province about 2 weeks ago and then unrolled into the field by village locals," Saks Afridi, an artist and member of the group, told The Verge. Depicted there is a child whose identity isn't revealed, but reportedly lost both parents and two siblings in a drone attack. The project draws inspiration from Parisian artist J R's "Inside Out" project, which plastered photographs of people amid Times Square's advertising landscape. Indeed, what J R told The New York Times last year rings true with this effort; that is, it's people coming together to say "We exist." (emphasis added)

As stated on the art collective's website, there is a secondary purpose toward creating a permanent record:

The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites. (Source)